Tag Archives: guinea pigs

Mr. Rogers is nowhere in sight.

51. The Neighborhood – S.K. Epperson

There’s a bird hoarding nutbar whose brain will turn on him and a lot of other people, a lying doctor whose brother has SMALLPOX, of all the diseases to somehow get, and he’s trying to pass it off as HIV to a nurse he hired out of his hospital, the vocally disabled ex-cop who gardens and totally works out and also makes eyes for the eyeless as a single father, the ex-burglar who is pretty much just a dick – even when he’s shackled in a basement -, and the mentally underdeveloped adult who keeps getting into trouble he really doesn’t deserve. Epperson’s ensemble have generally distinct personalities, different motivations, and her story comes together in an entirely unpleasant for the characters but highly readable way.

I’ve now read three of her books and frankly, I like her stories. I also like how she works in awful things and diseases! By the way, the nurse and the ex-cop get together and since she was with the dude with Smallpox when he died and he was totally breathing in the room…everyone in the neighborhood who isn’t dead will now die of Smallpox. It’s a very stealthy way to have a happy ending that will turn out TERRIBLE. Yay!

All’s well that ends well; Merricat and Danger Crumples know how loaded endings can really be.

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I do believe that my favorite role of Rachel’s, Wanda Jo Oliver, was ineligible to be covered in this book. To the mobile fake crisis pregnancy center!

61. Girl Walks Into a Bar: Comedy Calamities, Dating Disasters, and a Midlife Miracle – Rachel Dratch

Rachel Dratch is very good at her characters. She is a very funny woman with great comedic timing. And her memoir is also funny and explores her character as an actual person with less great timing. Someone who has not had it easy in Hollywood with a career that didn’t have the easiest trajectory – it’s really interesting reading the story of someone who has been pushed around a bit more and doesn’t get to rely on the “pretty privilege” as much as other actors and comedians have. She actually has something to say and it is valuable to have the perspective of someone who has had some things come to them a bit later in life than they expected or that society teaches us to expect.

Pammy had a baby at age oneish and maintained a very strong spirit. Someone get her a fake crisis pregnancy center!

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They did not talk about Madeline Ashton.

70. We Are All Completely Fine – Daryl Gregory

“We’re different from other people,” she’d said. “We only feel at home when we’re a little bit afraid.”

As someone who has many similarities in thinking to a prey animal, I understand that sentiment better than I want to. I sometimes think that one of the reasons that guinea pigs and I get along so well is that very similarity – prey knows prey. And I am very strong and resilient, but I am also hypervigilant and many other things people don’t associate with being strong or resilient. I’m the worst kind of prey.

The premise of this clever little novella is a support group for people who’ve been through trauma that has a supernatural edge. There are five of them and they’re in group therapy – brought together to identify and process and try to work on what makes them different and deal with how trauma has re-wired their brains. Except that they find out they really just need to band together and try to help the youngest and most fiery of their five escape the cult that keeps coming after her because of what she keeps on the inside. It sort of works, sort of, and for the most part they come to a level of understanding and acceptance.

I really liked this, and it is the first work of Daryl Gregory I’ve ever read, but I kept feeling like I was missing something or that he was referencing his other works. It seemed like a novella relying on some shorthand I wasn’t privy to. We’ll see. However, we will not see soon, because my theme this year is to review the books of authors that I haven’t read much. If I haven’t read more than three of their books, they’re in. Short stories don’t count, although they certainly counted last year.

When Finny is feeling completely fine, he puts his little front feets out like this.

 

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Whiner.

32. The Bachman Books: Road Work – Richard Bachman

When I first read this book I felt very little sympathy for the main character. He seemed like a controlling jerk who can’t cope with change and decides to take it out on everyone else. I still think that’s a big part of who the main character is; he seems to be angry in part because he can’t control how things are changing and has acted like a complete entitled ass about some of it. However, as one ages, one has the possibility of understanding how people get to this point more easily. I imagine if he was a lady he wouldn’t have made the same decisions because he would’ve had more of an idea how stacked against you society can be and maybe not been so extreme in his reactions so as not to “cause a scene.” Of course, then there’s no book. “Woman calmly endures negative change despite many things working against her” is just how things are. Ew.

Danger Crumples faces the future while Ozymandias tries to hide under a stuffed turtle.

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Hand faces. There’s also a demented parrot.

14. Master of Lies – Graham Masterton

I thought this was going to be about castration and cults, but, it’s mostly not. It’s about an Italian cop and a very corrupt San Francisco police department and everybody’s in on it – except that guy who gets castrated. Also, there are hand faces.

I actually think the Fog City Satan case might make for a weird season of True Detective. It would resemble a crossover between seasons one and two – the vague supernatural (that would become super not vague) of season one and basically most of season two without any prostitution or drugs or Taylor Kitsch. Just some corruption, smarmy dialogue, and – now that I think about it – it’s got nothing really from season one. Take season two, add fully formed families for supernatural sacrifice and some hand faces, and it might have actually been a little better television.

Also, I think the state of constant upset in the world is making me super desensitized to gore and Graham Masterton’s usual level of vulgar description – or, he was getting soft in this one. Or bloodless. He did use the word “musk” one too many times and I never really squirmed after the scene with the nails in the first chapter.

“When is a book that says it’s about castration and cults actually going to be about castration and cults? What do we have to do to get some castration and cults going? Geez.” – Peregrine is very interested in “c” words. She’s cute.

 

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“I’m tired of you being so dark while I’m so impish and whimsical.”

53. Get In Trouble – Kelly Link

Kelly Link’s brand of magical realism is always something I look forward to reading. I bought her Get In Trouble short story collection as soon as it came out and read the eight stories I hadn’t read before quite quickly. It’s been interesting to read the evolution of how Link deals with forming her characters. They seem to be much more realized in this collection than they were in her earlier work and usually a non-character character bugs me, but it never did in her writing.

I don’t like the cover of this collection as much as the past three of hers, it’s too not-whimsical, too graphic designy for me. The feeling I get from Kelly Link stories is like entering a long-abandoned and overgrown mini-golf course with a fairytale theme at dusk and red, cream, and brushy lettering is not quite right.

Pammy would’ve made a good cover model, especially on her shiny 1950s chair. She’s darling and cautious and those sweet eyes hint at an abandoned mini-golf course within.

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Cold sliced meat mentions: 0 (Stupid post-apocalyptic country)

27. Chimera – Mira Grant

It’s the end of the trilogy and Sal has finally realized that being afraid of cars is a learned behavior she shouldn’t have had. Finally. Geez. It took enough pages. I don’t recall anyone gaslighting her about cars in the first one, just her reacting to them- so, not signposted and I feel right for being annoyed the whole time. Also noticed by me – she lost her concern for her collection of carnivorous plants at some point. And I thought she and her boyfriend were compassionate.

Anyway, she has turned that lost compassion for plants into compassion for a zombie-child that read to me like a distraction for the sciencey parts and brought another confusing character relationship to the forefront. Sherman? When did Sherman not just seem like surface-level manipulative about “loving” Sal? Why does he love Sal? Why is anyone even interested in Sal beyond her tapeworm being skilled, again?

So, Sal finds a kid and goes on a post-apocalypse road trip and makes bad friends and bits of her have been put into the water supply by Sherman while he giggles like a maniac but also tries to present himself as a viable love interest. Yep, that’s a run-on, but, so’s the plot.

Thankfully, Tansy aka Foxy from Newsflesh part deux, doesn’t say anything in the entire book. Instead, the role of warped person who makes functional suggestions and does the heavy work is taken by Fishy, a guy who pretends to be in a video game. Actually, Fishy reminds me a lot of Shawn from Newsflesh. I feel like everyone in these two series is basically recycled somehow. But Georgia wasn’t as boring a narrator as Sal. Yeesh. Both, however, are diseased, broken, apparently good looking women. Okay then. I’m sure all the characters in both series would have a hell of a brunch together, although it might devolve into carnage if the cold cuts tray wasn’t re-stocked a few times.

“Seriously? No luncheon meats? None?” Thaddeus is shocked. Shocked, I tell you.

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It’s dark in here.

75. One Kick – Chelsea Cain

I learned a lot of uncomfortable information about child sex trafficking from this book and although it’s fiction, I do not wish to fact check anything. I have to say, I am not surprised that Chelsea Cain and Chuck Palahniuk were ever in the same writing group. Tidbits about uncomfortable things that validate the circumstances and actions of the story are a foundation for both writers. Chelsea Cain’s heroine Kick Lannigan is closed off but compassionate, she has a complicated and unpleasant past, and she makes for an intriguing guide through the world of One Kick. It’s very tense.

Also, there’s some level of weirdness with the follow-up. It was supposed to come out a long time ago and I had it on my Amazon Wish List and then it went wonky. I tried to look into it a couple of times and for now I’m going to have to go with “the book got kidnapped and trafficked,” which is really unfortunate on a couple of levels.

Belvedere tensely searches for new smells and a better napping spot. Guinea pig thrills.

 

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“In the back shakes a tambourine/Nicotine from a silver screen”

38. Silver Scream – David J. Schow, ed.

In 1988, Dark Harvest published Silver Scream, a collection of movie-centric horror stories edited by Splatterpunk dude David J. Schow. It’s awesome…except for the note at the end. Too much, man, too much. Don’t splatter me with such random tidbits. I prefer to be splattered in a much more specific way. That sounds horrible, not unlike many of the events in the stories of Silver Scream.

Ozymandias is ready to walk the path of cinematic terror. Are you?

“Cuts” by F. Paul Wilson – This reminded me of this movie that keeps randomly playing on Flix Retro called Mark of the Devil. It turns out it was part of a Hammer television series in the 1980s called Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense and involves this dude (Dirk Benedict) who murders a voodoo dude-slash-tattoo artist and grows a tattoo of the murder on his chest that he must – MUST – keep from his new bride Jenny Seagrove. In “Cuts,” things get a little bloodier than murder. Yep. It just proves that you should never mess with anyone who writes about voodoo. Also, do not fuck with books when you make them into movies. Most of the time it goes badly and in this case, you’ll suffer extensively.

“The Movie People” – Robert Bloch – I haven’t read Psycho as of yet, so I believe this is one of my first exposures to Robert Bloch’s writing (I can’t recall if he’s been in any of the other short story collections I’ve read, I’ve read a lot of them over the years). It’s a wistful story of loneliness and reaching out across time and really, really taking one’s craft as an extra seriously.

“Sinema” – Ray Garton – Holy shit this story was great. A basically abandoned kid and a serial killer in the midst of a strictly religious town watch movies together and make friends…until there are reasons for them to be not friends. A little more sadistic at the end than I would’ve liked, but I am glad the basically abandoned kid got the upper hand at some point.

Ozymandias will control what we watch from now on. He has taken control of the remote for all time.

“More Sinned Against” – Karl Edward Wagner – 100% my favorite story in the collection. I know the sacrifices women are expected and conditioned to make so that they can support someone else’s dream. It doesn’t always turn out quite like this, but the excuses were so familiar. “If I just had this, we could do this,” and they never, ever mean it. They were always planning to get ahead of you and expected you to just stay where you were. They were special, you were not. Well, getting your own action figure isn’t all it’s cracked up to be sometimes. Everyone is special.

“Bargain Cinema” – Jay Scheckley – A ballad of co-dependency. Don’t be Chuck and Patty.

“Lifecast” – Craig Spector – Sounds like Troma maybe screwed someone over at some point. Hmmm. This tale of make-up work and, yes, more voodoo, ends in a way that I was not expecting. Yikes.

Ozymandias was always very independent, and very special. He would never have made any mistakes while practicing voodoo.

“The Show Goes On” – Ramsey Campbell – Abandoned theaters are super creepy. I have been in exactly one abandoned theater myself, I was not alone – there was a print of Coach Carter there in addition to other people I came with, and thankfully it wasn’t as far gone as the theater in this story. Parts of this story made my breathing wonky because it was so easy to picture all the dust and mold and musty smells. It was also very tense, as a lot of urban exploration can be, even without the hauntings.

“The Cutter” – Edward Bryant – Delusions of romance and grandeur drive a movie theater owner who used to edit in Hollywood. He re-cuts the movies he shows and he creepily pursues and finally “edits” a young woman with a bad attitude who lets him do things for her. Eek.

There are two other things I took issue with about this collection besides the overly wordy and inside jokey essay at the end. One, the last story was Way. Too. Long. I lost interest nearly a quarter in and never regained it. I’m surprised I made it through the whole thing. And- there are no stories by women in here. There are several stories about women and featuring their perspectives, but I bet there were some stories about movies by women that really could’ve been worth including. It would’ve been nice to see more equal representation.

Ozy and Pammy, equals and Teddy Bear pigs.

 

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“Let’s play a game, it’s called scary noises.”

20. Torments – Lisa W. Cantrell

The sequel to the paperback with one of my all time favorite covers featuring an angry jack o’lantern munching on a bannister – The Manse, Torments really feels like a major re-tread. I haven’t even read The Manse, but there was so much summary information about what happened in it, that I almost feel like I don’t need to. I will eventually, of course, and maybe I’ll get déjà vu.

Anyway, this manse is haunted. So haunted that the land around it is super haunted and the town and the people and the construction site and the new apartment buildings and it’s just got super penetrating haunting powers. I think we all know how this turns out on Halloween and that it requires an elderly black woman to save whatever and whomever can be saved.

Finny’s idea of torment is sitting still for pictures. He never does. He never will. He might end up running a very specifically themed haunted house attraction someday.

 

Happy Halloween! Here are my little trick-or-treaters in Danger Things II, such a sweet little group.

 

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